Thursday, 12 July 2012

Ask the Author! DR Smith

DR Smith, Author


We extend to US author, DR Smith, a very warm welcome to Bookworm Live.

DR has published 'Beaches of Belmont', a short story collection, and he has kindly agreed to an interview online.  It will be an interview with a difference as he is here to answer YOUR questions. I asked him what he wanted to talk about and he answered "anything goes". I am sure you will find his comments  both interesting and thought provoking and you will be as delighted as I am that he will share his experiences with us.

Please introduce yourself, DR Smith.

don't be drinking mornin' coffee when you read ... or you may find yourself cleaning the computer screen. lol 


  1. G’day to new friends down under.

    I’m a New Englander by birth, made Chicago home for most of my adult life, and now reside with my British bride in Kentucky, “horse capital of the world,” so the locals claim.

    Writing anything other than for an occasional trade magazine was the furthest thing on my mind… let alone of having aspirations of one day publishing a book. Yet it happened, despite the original inspiration sprouting from an unexpected, heart-breaking event.

    To this day, I’ve no clue, but somehow Beaches ( ) caught the eye of a Chicago publisher looking for shorter reads for the commuter and airport crowds. The green light to publish was eventually given and the rest is history as they say….. well, except for one truly amazing moment when in mid December, I was at the American Legion drinking beer and swapping lies with fellow Legionnaires when my cell phone rang. It was my publisher, who said: “Oprah Winfrey just called, had a copy and loved it, and was considering Beaches for a Christmas Special.”

    Though the “Special” never did gel (as yet), but motivated by such a jaw-dropping surprise, Oprah’s call and my gawking mates spawned a series of charitable book-signings for Veterans interned in VA Hospitals, events which are most heartwarming, yet can be rather emotional at times.

    Now, after zig-zagging through more fateful twists and turns, here I am today… thrilled to have this opportunity to meet and nurture new friendships in Australia.

  2. I am impressed by the Oprah connection. Because she selects great books across genres, Oprah is respected in book circles. It's truly a 'feather in your cap' to be considered and will be wonderful to be selected. Congratulations!

    From peeking at the contents page, I see that Beaches offers a wide variety of stories, something for every taste…...and even poetry! How did it come about that there is such a diverse range?

    1. The publisher was in Kentucky for the yearling sales and somehow learning of my Beaches novella, we met to discuss the possibility of an anthology referenced above. They were looking for 500 pages, and though way short of material, I gathered virtually everything I had, about 250 pages no matter the genre or how badly in need of editing.

      About two months later I was called and told it was a go. But what was comically interesting in a way, two pieces in particular “put them over the top.” Go figure– the two roughest items of the lot, one a poetic epic on Hercules, the other an unfinished draft entitled, 54 Excuses about horse racing. She said: “don’t worry, you can always edit, but I loved Diana’s pet deer and as a horse owner, I could truly relate to 54 Excuses.”

      We compromised at 400 pages and under a deadline, agreed I could recruit authors if need be. Hence more diversity as I scoured the portfolios in, a popular International writer’s site I frequent, and selected a handful of excellent, themed items I deemed to be a fit. I invited each author to share my publisher, and all except two jumped at the chance to be in print.

  3. The leap from what is essentially "copywriting" to writing a Novel is a monumental one.

    How did it come about that you made that leap of faith?

    The parallel interwoven stories of trainee soldiers and a horse race seems inconsistent, yet you have intricately interwoven the two to frame their eerily uncanny similarities.

    What (or who) inspired you to write a multilayered story of what seem to be disparate events?

    1. My trade articles were sparse and sporadic, but served as literary seedlings I suppose, but it was two tragic events that converged to become Beaches of Belmont. The first struck eight years ago next month– I’d lost my son.

      The sudden death of a child can send one spiraling into an abyss of despair, yet for me, it was also an eye-opener. For it was then I fully grasped how deep an espousal love can be. My god, what if I’d lost my wife… my soul mate, my hero?

      Slowly, the burden of grief lightened until one night, my subconscious awakened to the soothing chant of a siren: ‘you are to write; it is to be a novel, an epic ride.’ I’ll never forget the eerie calling that seemed to be taking hold of my mind, my energies.

      Rather than dismiss the feeling, I encouraged it; the envisioned plot and themes unmistakably clear. The words flowed, and within a few weeks, I’d cranked out the first 500 pages of an estimated 1200 entitled: Tree of the Great Long Leaves, a James Michener type format whose multi-layered themes reflect the depth and consequences of human relationships no matter how casual or intimate the ties.

      Months zipped by when I was befriended by a WWII veteran, a B-29 belly gunner and writer during the war. He asked if I’d help condense some 13,000 pages of notes and diaries into a memoir. Working together, we became very close; I even came to love and admire him as my own father.

      One day, while sharing a segment of diaries, the hairs on my neck stiffened. I realized I was looking through the eyes of fit and feisty 20 year-olds just out of training, on a troop transport, mid Atlantic, mid May, 1944. They were listening to a shortwave broadcast of the Preakness Stakes. My god, what a story this would make, I thought, with the Belmont Stakes and D-Day three weeks hence.

      Unlike us who have the benefit of history, those kids had no clue they were on their way to D-Day; their first mission. The more research I did, the more incredible the parallels… such that when the gates opened at Belmont, a “sure thing” favorite would be fending off any spoilers in its effort to capture the most coveted trophy in racing… while at nearly the identical moment in history, the gates would spring open at Normandy and these kids would be scrambling for their lives, each nervously identifying with the odds of their equine counterparts pulled from a Belmont betting pool in an English pub the night before.

      Thus, the inspiration for Beaches of Belmont was born, but sadly, it took a second tragedy to force me to set aside Tree and devote every hour in a rush to finish Dad’s legacy… for he died of a sudden illness only two days after I’d placed the rough manuscript on his sickbed... a fitting tribute to one great man, Vince Zecca.

  4. Thank-you for your very sad, yet somehow uplifting and honest reply.

    Where is your book available to be purchased? I've checked Amazon and they have a few "Used" copies. Is your book available on e-readers like Kindle or Ipad etc?

  5. On following the link ' Portfolio, Profile and all' provided in your Bookworm members profile, I see that you are heavily in involved in a program to mentor other writers. What can you tell us about this?

  6. Major book stores in and around the larger cities in Kentucky and likely same plus commuter stations and the airports in Chicago. I was given a contract by Ingrams, and though I can't remember now, there was a clause or two I didn't care for so I let it go. Secondly, I hired an editor from Missouri, and to be honest, we were under such pressure to meet the deadline, it could have been better edited. Since we're doing so well with the veterans, I thought we'd simply sponsor out the remaining first edition copies, and if we do a 2nd, we will have edited much tighter, plus I have new material and will not need guest authors.

    As for new friends in Australia, I'd made Sanmac a special offer whereby I'll furnish 1/2 dozen signed complementary copies if 5 people would be willing to meet me half way and furnish the $75 shipping. (Like buying a copy at same price stores pay)

    1. That's a very generous offer, thank you DR. I am definitely 'on the list'. Perhaps if you could provide a quick link to one of your stories or a sample of your work, there would easily be 4 people who would recognise that $15.00 is excellent value. I believe the book is beautifully bound and is 'gift'quality?

    2. Two links in my Bookwormlive profile: the portfolio link ( will take a reader to a Int'l Writers site (over 700,000 authors) I frequent, and directly to my portfolio for a good sampling... some of them multi-award winners, from short stories to non-fiction to poetry... recently a great deal of comedy in both non-fiction and poetry. Each contains a little descriptive and a graphic to depict theme. The second link takes readers to Beaches of Belmont site where they can navigate the Table of Contents for a peek at each of the 18 entries. Yes, it is a gift quality (intended) with leatherette cover, D/J, etc... all explained on the website.

  7. Sanmac's question with respect to my being "heavily involved in a program to mentor others," I'm not sure what you mean. Other than the occasional request for a review and critique, which I'll gladly do, my portfolio link on is there for anyone who cares to sample my work. The only program we've been most active with, has been for hospitalized veterans.

    1. I'm sorry, I obviously have crossed wires somewhere. Can you tell us about the hospitalised veterans' programme?

    2. The link to the book's website will show aspects of the program. After I'd got off the phone with the publisher the day Oprah called, my Legion buddies and I decided to do a Xmas Special of our own.

      Since one of the guys was a Santa and scheduled to give out socks, pizza, and pop, we thought we'd tag along with the books. We visited 4 VA Hospitals and Convalescent Centers. Several Legion Posts and individuals sponsored cases at cost. As volunteers handed out goodies, including the books, I would follow and sign them. It was a most amazing success... never been done.

      To many, the gifts were one thing, but to have me signing books for them, meant more than we could have imagined. It wasn't long before nurses came to me and asked if I'd mind going to different wards to visit with veterans who couldn't make it down to the cafeteria. It was phenomenal, and a bit emotional for me, too.

      I'd met one fellow who told me of his surviving the sinking of his carrier, the Yorktown, at the Battle of Midway... another 6'-6' marine confined to a wheelchair who'd asked if the book was about the Beaches of Okinawa, "for I was the first one to hit the beach and them Japs were sure trying to kill us." I said, no sir, it's a story of your era, of fellow trainees bonding in love of country and of each other. Here's a giant of a man, clasping the book to his chest and openly wept. "This is about my time, my life, my era with my buddies? Thank you, Mr. Smith, as I'll cherish this 'til the day I die."

      That experience, as others, was quite moving for me enough... until last Valentine's Day at a VA Hospital in West Virginia, there were about 50 veterans in line waiting to get to me when the typical question, "what's it about" popped up while I was signing a copy. I started to explain when a tall veteran standing behind him said: "I know, I was there and can relate." He couldn't find any more words as the tears freely flowed as I held him. "I never talk about it, but you'd understand why to this day, the horrors still haunt me." The place was silent while I held him until he (we) regained composure.

      After the booksigning, I'd spent a good hour or so chatting with the first veteran I'd met, awarded 5 bronze stars, who was among the first to hit the Beaches at Omaha... something I'll never forget. And now, you know why I'm so keen on finishing out this edition in such a manner.

  8. I do like stories with an epiphany or a strong theme, as does those of yours which I have read. Is there a recurrent theme in your work? And can you point to a particular author (or authors) who has influenced your writing style?

    1. No recurrent theme, just whatever and whenever something comes to mind. Lately, I've been writing more comedy pieces (a favorite genre), including an epic spoof on the win big money poetry contests, The Mad Cow Disease, How Moses Got the 10 Commandments, etc... and non-fiction with comedy basis. If I had to name a few authors who tend to influence my style, I'd say O'Henry, James Thurber, and James Michener would likely be close.

  9. I did chuckle when I read 'Chicken Coyote Anyone' and then went on to read 'You Are What You Eat', to understand what was being reviewed and also 'Thems That Walk'. I think now that I'll be much more careful when reviewing! Humour is certainly your strength.
    However, so far, my favourites of your stories are 'The Magic of Moses' and '54 Excuses'. I still have a soft spot for Moses and the raindrops on the window.  My thoughts keep returning. I suppose that these would be considered serious pieces, although they have your 'signature' humourous touch. Coincidentally, they both centre on horse racing.

    I see from the Opinion page that we have aspiring writers among us. I wonder how many others have dreams of being published? Perhaps you would like some hints from DR?

  10. I have to admit, I have had a tendency to work within the comedy genre lately, though I'm open-minded and a product of my inspirations.

    The reason I thought most of you would enjoy Chicken Coyote, Anyone? is, you a site devoted to reading and what I'd presume sharing ideas and reactions on what you've REVIEWS.

    Reviews are fundamentally, a 2 course meal. First course are those who tend to recap how a piece affected them; to convey impressions on how strong (or weak) the author's style, use of words, an ability to keep the reader involved; to evoke emotional responses as intended, the reflect on charactera, visuals, and a story's overall pace... and so on.

    Second course are the techies... a lot more trickie because a number of people who are determined to find technical faults are about as qualified at offering constructive input for the craft as I would be at putting on makeup.... 'tain't gonna work! But when one does get a review from someone highly skilled in the craft, AND especially IF they demonstrate genuine sensitivity to the author's own style, they can also be priceless.

    Sometimes the simplest little nuances in applying technique can make a huge difference on how words can work so hard for a piece, to paint the exact picture, a feeling, tension, emotion, etc... IE: there was one time when a respected writer thought I was wandering toward a little too much narrative and suggested a sentence or two of dialog in a key spot to break it up. I tried it, and from 2 lines of solid dialog (and of course, his suggestion), an entire 22 page chapter emerged which offered so much more depth to the characters and their interaction with each other at that point.

    Lesson being, BOTH types are needed.... and Chicken Coyote simply takes a playful poke at the more "odd" reviews that find their way into our ports.

  11. It is not too late to order your copy of BEACHES OF BELMONT, a beautifully bound edition of the short fiction of D R Smith and friends. The book is generously offered free of charge, with shared postage costs to Australia of approximately $15.00. Please email me at to secure your copy and to arrange delivery.

    In the meantime, I'd like to publicly thank you, D R, for coming onsite to talk with us and for sharing your writing and experiences. It seems there are some aspiring writers among us and I know that they, as well as we readers, really enjoyed reading your work and learning about the inspiration behind it.

    Please visit us often and keep us up to date with your career.